Searching for smart, safe news you can TRUST?

Support safe, smart, REAL journalism. Sign up for our Axios AM & PM newsletters and get smarter, faster.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Comma.ia

Comma.ai, a San Francisco autonomous driving startup, is taking the next step in its strategy to gather data about as many car models as possible through its customers — a critical step to make its software universally compatible and allow any car to drive itself.

"If we wanna make a car self-driving, we need a way to talk to it," founder and CEO George Hotz said in an interview. "We need to be able to control your car."

So far, Comma.ai has been gathering data about roads and human driving through its Chffr dashcam app and OpenPilot software, which works with its Neo device. Now it's releasing two new products — its Panda car dongle is now publicly on sale and can be used with its new analytics software, Cabana — to get more information on cars themselves.

Strategy: Comma.ai is banking on autonomous driving going the way of open systems as opposed to closed ones (which is how automakers would like to keep things). This way, companies like itself can create easily updatable software that works with cars manufactured by the automakers.

Business model: Eventually, Comma.ai plans to sell its autonomous driving software on a subscription basis to owners. The company also hopes to ink deals with insurance companies and bundle policies as part of its software services. According to Hotz, assuming his company's software is safer than human drivers, insurance companies will be more than willing to charge attractively low fees in exchange for having significantly fewer accidents to pay for. Several insurance providers have already expressed interest in the idea, adds Hotz.

No LiDAR: Hotz is outspoken about his belief that LiDAR—a sensor used to help cars "see"—is not necessary for autonomous driving, as Axios previously explored. Though a commonly used sensor by tech companies and automakers alike, Tesla is also making do without it.

Under the hood:

Currently, Comma.ai has 11 employees and has burned through about half of the $3.1 million it raised in 2016 in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz. Though Hotz wouldn't share much, he says that he's considering an initial coin offering (see a good explainer

here

) later this year as an alternative to raising more VC money.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.

The post-Trump GOP, gutted

McConnell (L), McCarthy (R) and Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.